Gloucester RFC was first formed in 1873, with their first game against the local College School. They played at the Spa Ground, which was also where Gloucester Cricket Club and Gloucester Football Club played at the time.
In 1879, Gloucester played Rocklease, a club from Bristol, in their first ever match under floodlights. The game was played in front of a crowd of 2,000 people. This however, caused a number of problems – they were not used to crowds of this size at the Spa Ground, and the spectators ended up damaging the park and there was reported bad behaviour between the sets of fans, which resulted in the council banning rugby from being played at the Spa. This was however was overturned 6 months later.
However, this did not spell the end of the problems for Gloucester RFC at the Spa Ground. More disputes occurred; this time with the Cricket Club. The rugby club used a salt mixture to defrost the pitch at wintertime, which resulted in the death of the grass on the wicket. No longer welcome at the Spa ground, Gloucester RFC purchased the lands of the “Castle Grim Estate” (it’s actual name), for a sum of £4,000 in 1891, known to us as Kingsholm, where Gloucester have been ever since.
In 1914, the First World War began. Nearly all of Gloucester’s players joined the 5th Gloucestershire Regiment. 18 died in the war, with many others severely injured. Tommy Voyce, one of the players to return from the war, and was the first Gloucester play to represent the British Lions (now known as British and Irish Lions), who was capped twice on their 1924 tour of South Africa.
Turning to the early 1990s, just before the professional era begins, and its not all glitz and glamour of the past like it had been for Gloucester. After dominating previously for decades against their local rivals, it’s now Bath who are top of the West Country. With the sport turning professional in 1995, the resurgence of Gloucester Rugby began.
Philippe Saint-Andre became the Director of Rugby at Gloucester at the turn of the century. In his first season in charge, he took them to a 3rd place finish, and qualifying them for the Heineken Cup. Things were becoming to look up. He left in 2002 to take over Bourgoin, and Nigel Melville took his place. In his first season, he took Gloucester to the top of the table, 15 points clear of their nearest rival by the end of the season. Champions? Not quite, because 2002-3 was the first year of the Premiership playoff system – at this point, Gloucester needed to beat London Wasps to be crowned champions. Despite a 3-week break and dominating the entire season, they lost 39-3 to Wasps. This theme was to continue, with Gloucester topping the table in both 2006/7, and 2007/8, but failing to lift the league trophy.
Despite success in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and a 3rd place league finish in 2010/11, their recent form has been much lower than that of Gloucester fans’ expectations. And rightly so – with the amount of money being spent on a team choc-a-bloc with seasoned internationals and high quality players.